MARROWSTONEARTS Issue #1, March 2022
In this Premier Issue:
REVERBERATIONS / Peter Weltner and Gerald Coble SLICE of SILENCE / photographs by Nathan Wirth SONGS of the LOTUS / paintings by Akha/Thai artist, Chang Lek
An Online Quarterly Arts Journal The endless circle. In the early 1990s, I bought a large building that housed an apartment and three oversized garages on five acres of wooded land overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca in Port Townsend, Washington, then converted it into my home and art studios for painting and printmaking. As well as creating my art, I invited other young artists to come and spend time there, nourishing their creative appetites. This effort, along with sponsoring private exhibitions and events, I embraced under the mantle of Marrowstone Arts, a name I chose because when I first moved from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula, dear friends invited me to stay in their guest house on Marrowstone Island. The name captivated me—marrow: the essential heart, and Stone: the unchangeable. In the early 2000s, after I’d set out to do a film about elephants in Northern Thailand, ultimately moving here, I began a project with a friend to produce the book: Morris Graves, His Houses, His Gardens. In doing this, Marrowstone Arts segued into Marrowstone Press, a small imprint devoted to art and poetry. The endless gift. Galen Garwood
REVERBERATIONS / Peter Weltner and Gerald Coble SLICE of SILENCE / photographs by Nathan Wirth SONGS of the LOTUS / paintings and collage by Thai artist, Chang Lek
Carolina Field 3, 2018, Gerald Coble
poems PETER WELTNER
GERALD COBLE paintings
On Gerald Coble, 1932-2021 Throughout his life, Gerald Coble was devoted in his art to two obsessions: landscape and memory. His earliest work, from the late fifties and early sixties, were paintings of the Carolina fields, woods, and lakes near his cottage and studio outside Greensboro and the seascapes off the coast of Ocracoke Island in winter or Cape Cod in springtime. Like many artists then, he had been deeply affected by the new American art of the mid-century, at Black Mountain and in New York City, especially its calls for art to return to the essentials of its vision. For Gerald, that meant, above all, a vision of sky and earth and light seen joined together in a work approaching abstraction but never altogether eliminating the “world” from his painting. He was particularly interested in how color evoked reality especially at the dividing line, the horizon, that dominated much of his work. When Coble moved to Manhattan in the early sixties and began to live with his lifetime partner, Robert Nunnelley, a former assistant to David Smith and an important painter as well, he began to draw a lot, mostly in ink on large sheets of paper, figurative work, often male nudes, meticulously, scrupulously drawn. After he had spent over a year in Italy, near Volterra among other sites, history, images from the past entered into his graphic pieces, ruins, sculptures, and over and over throughout his lifetime, images drawn out of or referential to Botticelli’s Primavera. After, in the early seventies, he and Bob had moved to Battenville into their early eighteenth century home along the Battenkill in upstate New York, Gerald began to make collages, combines, sculpture, often uniting found objects stilled into a single image by the simple act of framing. For example, in one
piece, a century old boy’s shirt is shown hanging from a wire hanger with a black mourning band wrapped around one sleeve. Or, in another, an antique Sicilian door he’d found is left as is, but surrounded by a worn, gilded frame. Postcards, threads, spools, cut out images, photos, pencils, feathers are mingled with gestures, additions he has made with paint and ink or pencil, the hand of the artist also present. In all these images, the past is inescapable, elusive and yet ever present. For almost a decade or more, he made few paintings. He assembled perhaps hundreds of collages, small and large, for example of a single pyramid and its shadow. He was pondering fundamental images reduced to their essences and the potential for evocation, for otherwise unseen meanings, when so stripped down. But, later in life, he embraced painting again, as if, in a way, returning to where he began some fifty or sixty years before, looking at the fields and brownred clay and fine, bold skies and strict horizons of his early life in Carolina. These late paintings are, like much of his work throughout his life, about essences. That which exists through itself as translated by an artist’s vision is what is called meaning, one might say. The surfaces are flat, spare, almost bare at times, yet, though color, they all emit an inner light. In this they acquire what might be called the genius of a late style, the genius of simplicity. The two greatest influences upon Gerald Coble’s life’s work were not painters but Marcel Proust and Igor Stravinsky. In them, he found the sense he needed of the artist’s ethical responsibilities to form and the aesthetic ones to the enduing presence of
the past, both, after all, like him, creating their work not only out of personal memories but the memories retained and sustained by what we call history, a history which is not merely a written record but an ever present presence for those who can see or hear or feel it. Varied as it is throughout his long life, all of Gerald’s work is united by a single vision: landscape is memory, memory is landscape. Place and time shine together. What an artist tries to accomplish, he believed, is to show that unity–form and transience, the enduring and change are conjoined, married, in the aesthetic order, the made thing, the work of art. That is the joy of it. But it is also its sorrow. In Le Temps retrouvé, Proust wrote, “Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu’on a perdus.” The true paradises are those one has lost. Peter Weltner
Carolina Fields, Gerald Coble
Untitled Gerald Coble
Battenkill It’s famous. “Best trout fishing stream in America.” Here, the river doglegs, forming a pool Eakins’ boys would have loved if they’d lived near, flat, man-sized rocks to sun on, a hemp rope, high as a silo, tied for years to an old oak branch still able to support two or three grown men swinging over the waters, frothy where deepest, to dive or cannon-ball in. Summer is such a kingdom on the Battenkill. Idling bird song. Folks on inner tubes floating by. Beyond Gerald’s and Bob’s, it curves past bridge and silent mill. In the corner of yards, on the border of farms, headstones stand erect or lie half-buried, well-kept or moss-covered, some chiseled with dates older than the Battle of Saratoga. Small American flags, some wind-shredded, memorialize the fallen. Its planks peeling like infested redwood, fathomless pits gaping between boards, a barn forms a backdrop of sorts to a terrace, one of three edged by brush and rocks, that descend to the water. Fenced on both sides by fragments of stele or bits of monuments no longer standing or long torn down, its path narrows like an isosceles triangle to a point where a girl’s beautiful head carved, etched from granite rests on a tall wood plinth. The woman who posed for it now is dead, lying only a few miles away under her own stone, guarded fancifully by giant sculpted dogs. Memory is a heraclitean flow none can cross the same, unchanged, each time. I barely met her, spent much of our one afternoon together talking Faulkner with her and her husband, saying how in his art landscape, place, is always part of us and the past races past us faster than the future can try to catch up–or something like that. Who knows anymore? The face she wore was an old woman’s graced by joy like Hals’ Malle Babbe, an owl, wise to age, also darkly perching on her shoulder, the girl she was and is in the sculpted portrait still visible, as if life were endless, streaming like the Battenkill under winter’s ice, fighting to stay river.
A Promise Time Cannot Keep A curved, black, spindle back chair. A once plush red cushion faded to rose-soft orange or pink. A pale olive green sweater drapes over it. The floor boards–shed, barn dark–are centuries old. Tan, like a rusted nail, two shoes, work boots, laces untied, rest. Ceramic cups, a bowl for cats. A part of a chair, carved arms, the paint worn smooth, no wood exposed. A hutch, thick slats, built solid. One door’s swung open. It’s piled with stacks of white or gray porcelain bowls and plates. On its side, the weathered wood of an antique ironing board hangs from a nail. The ghost of a snow shovel waits out the glass door propped on a wall. Old things adored, the snow shining bright as a flashbulb. So ancient deeds burn through time a promise it cannot keep. He’s just stepped out. He’ll soon return.
Sicilian Door, 1990, Gerald Coble
Stravinsky’s Canticum Sacrum to the memory of Gerald Coble The light of stars seems never to die. Recall the lamps lit by wise virgins who’d saved enough oil for the bridegroom who came after nightfall while the wicks still flamed. Sit by the sea. Listen to his music being played on the radio behind you in the evening gloom. Imagine Byzantine domes, mosaic and gold, by a lapping canal as the chorus’ voices transport his body on a flower-draped gondola over lagoons, by the sea to San Michele, as close to La Serenissima as to God, where he lies under cypress’ funereal beauty. Dawn’s mist rises off a muted Lido. Ships’ flags flap on a breezy morning as a red-throated loon zigzags over the piazza, San Marco, Venice crowned in glory by the sun at its zenith like the carved marble sound of his music, its vaulting naves, domes, bell towers, or, in Cannaregio, the lions’ mouths spouting spring-clear waters into the basins below while in its silent canticle you contemplate the plain stone grave of Igor Stravinsky.
Untitled, Gerald Coble
Late Fall, 1959 1. Furry, boneless, a red tail squirrel’s flattened pelt lay golden in the sun across the white line of the county road. If I’d told you how I felt back then as I walked past the shingle sign to the farm, frightened I was more than a bit in love with you, how would you have taken it in, the risk to us both so great? The leaves were browning already, the trees still shading what they could. I walked below oak, hickories in the grove near your cottage, lichen, moss clinging to their bark. Your door was open. You were playing a Brahms ballade on your grand piano as lead-gray gnats swarmed over a pool of trickling, rusty water left over from the morning’s rain. I hurried in. Started to paint. That’s what I remember best. My silence. The tears I’d shed years later. 2. All landscape is a painting, is what we mean to be, part of us always living there, at peace in the past, in that luminous place, something we still see of it inside us with a clarity we pray might last, a clear stream, trees composing the horizon hovering over Lake Brandt, the woods behind your cottage, the steady, warm light of the sun in a late fall sky, your dog Ezra, your lucky find, licking my hand as I hover outside your open door listening to you play Brahms once more, over and over, as if I could step inside one of your canvases or drawings that I care for so much since they are yours, are you in a way that art seems to sustain us in loss. Black bands, a deep, cerulean blue sky, a rust-red field alight with its mysteries, the earth of the heart.
McAdoo Farm for Gerald, with love Peter Real life sometimes begins surprisingly, the way paradise might come out of nowhere, from nothing but the ordinary moment, like the world as it is on a day when the sun is also young, its golden morning hiding behind trees, hickory, pin oak, and pine, as a boy drives on Westridge Road, listening to Elvis sing, past ranch houses and a few last farms, the shine of dawn brightening as he enters the battleground, waving at the statue of General Greene on his equine mount, its unpolished patina mossy and browned as the fields where for centuries soldiers have lain. He turns right at the drive-in theater, heads southbound on a wooded road, reaches the McNairy domain, a big white clapboard house, a gentleman’s dairy with a black angus herd where he manages to restrain from beeping his horn since Walton must be sleepy from last night’s football game. His heart is racing as the boy pictures Walt lying in bed. He passes slowly, stares at the windows, speeds up where the fencing ends and the lake begins, turns onto Church Street, and reaches Gerald’s cottage at McAdoo Farm. It is spring everywhere. All is blossoming, May as yet incomplete with more bounty to come. Ezra, Gerald’s stray mutt, named for Pound because found the day the poet was released from St. Elizabeths, barks, then wanders away from his offered hand, sniffs weeds, turns round, looks toward the woods, not interested in play– untamed, half feral, and free. He watches him bound over the fallow field toward a long row of cane and the forest beyond and lowers the sound
of his car radio, though he listens until the refrain is done—“without a love of my own”—no one, poor guy, then clicks it off, his teenager’s pain that no one must know, his secret, as heavy as a stone in his gut. He knocks on Gerald’s door. More music. What piece is it? Why does music let him feel less alone? A George Arnold hangs over the couch, Antarctic inspired, two bands, sky, land, the upper part blue, the lower ones reds and oranges, no impasto, nothing thick, but transparently brushed. In the studio, the work is all new, Gerald’s recent paintings on his floors and walls, strict horizons, pointillist foliage, calligraphic lines, a few in casein evoking pebbles in shallow brooks or waterfalls splashing on granite or searchlights scanning a runway: all landscapes. Vocation, the boy’s dad says, is whatever calls you to make your life true. But the kid has nothing to say of his own, can only imitate, pretend to be whoever he is mimicking, like a radio deejay mouthing the words to a hit ’45. He can see only what he has been taught to see, a chameleon, or what is worse, a chameleon cliché, not really free, whose colors match whatever branches it stands on as it waits for the morning sun to warm its blood, lizard-uncertain if it will survive to greet the next dawn. Only others’ eyes can show him, let him know what’s good, like Gerald’s as he patiently watches him paint in a different style each Saturday morning. It is understood he will play records, not talk. The boy’s musical saint is Berlioz, but today Gerald chooses Shapero’s Symphony for Classical Orchestra, not a faint Stravinsky rhythmic rip-off or a grim Schoenberg minus tone rows, but Haydnesque in its wit and gentle melancholy. The boy’s enjoying it more each time it re-plays. It shows
in his work, Gerald says, grabbing his shoulder. “See?” And possibly he does see, in the particular blue in his sky with too much earthbound, lichen green in it to be the less real one gleaming outdoors. He doesn’t ever mean to lie. Maybe he does look deeper inside, yet further below he fears there is nothing to see, just dark, too scared to reply to the warmth of the love in Gerald’s hand. He does not know what to say, how he should feel or respond. Gerald removes his grip, sits on his low marble checker-top table. The boy must go soon. It is late afternoon. He is paint-spattered, head to toe, shoes, shirt, jeans. He has his father’s lawn to mow, a date that night. As he leaves, he moves as a shadow moves. It is too early for him to love, not that he is cold or callow, just scared of the truth of what no one approves of in his world when on that day more than sixty years ago a boy realizes in one man’s gentle touch lie all of life’s joys that might follow.
Reverberations for Gerald Coble As you chatted with friends in the Piazza San Marco watching tourists while you sipped an espresso, you heard far off an amateur trio–violin, clarinet, accordion–performing an Italian serenade to a small crowd even though, much closer, within the Basilica, Stravinsky’s Canticum was being played. Just last month, you wrote to me how you could hear best in that moment its composer’s mastery, his ability to determine from knowing the church’s inner architecture how long to make the delay he scored between movements last so that the music’s reverberations would be sure to sound through the vast spaces and off walls exactly for the required duration, composing the silence, how it augments what is sounded before and after it, the way a painting, you’d showed me six decades earlier, was less what one saw and more what it pointed to. This morning, two days after learning that you had died from cardiac arrest, I read your Battenkill Book 2 once more, ink drawings of a winter river and moon in a series of transmutations. On each recto page, there’s a circle, the full moon above, below a rectangle the river flows through. All its verso pages are blank, empty save for the peas, two pods, crisscrossing each other in the lower corners, stamped there beside a sign like an old coin’s repetitively throughout the book. The brushwork is lyrical, calligraphic as poems by Du Mu or Wang Wei. Flowing river and fluent moon seized from the bleak nights of January. What joins us still, Gerald, are love and the wind and water worlds we both chose to live by. Landscape is our book of changes. A painting of yours hangs on my wall, winter fallow fields in Carolina, patches cracked and flaky blotches of white canvas, looking like loss now. All emptiness points to, all it obscures.
Gerald Coble—1932-2021—was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1932. The Outer Banks became a strong influence on his early drawing and painting. He moved to New York in 1962, making frequent visits to Italy where he had studios in Florence and in Pomerance, near Volterra. After an extended stay in Italy, in 1971 he moved to upstate New York to Battenville in Washington County where he continues to live and work, returning to Italy whenever possible. His drawings, collages, and constructions are in many private collections in the United States and Europe, and he is represented in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. http://www.geraldcoble.com/ Peter Weltner was raised in northern New Jersey and piedmont North Carolina. He graduated from Hamilton College (A.B.) and Indiana University (Ph.D.). For thirty seven years, he taught American, British, and Irish literature at San Francisco State University. He has published twenty five books or chapbooks of fiction and poetry, and his work over the years has appeared in numerous literary magazines and journals. He was awarded two O. Henrys for his short stories. His most recent titles are In the Half Light (Brick House Books), Bird and Tree/In Place, Scrapbook Mappings of My Country , and Woods and the City, (Marrowstone Press.) He lives with his husband of thirty five years, Atticus Carr, in San Francisco, steps away from the Pacific. https://brickhousebooks.wordpress.com/our-authors/author-profile-peter-weltner/ https://marrowstonepress.com/
tree and hill 1
slice of silence NATHAN WIRTH
Simply stated, Nathan Wirth attempts to photograph silence. Using a variety of techniques– including long exposure, infrared, intentional camera movement and the occasional dip into compositing– Nathan Wirth, who was born and raised in San Francisco, is a self-learned photographer who seeks to express his unending wonder for the fundamental fact of existence. For the past few years, Nathan has been studying and integrating into his work Japanese traditions of Zen, rock gardens, ma, and calligraphy– as well as the transience, impermanence, and imperfections of wabi-sabi. His studies and practice of Zen have led him to the practice of trying to achieve, while working on his photography, a mind of no-mind (mu-shin no shin), a mind not preoccupied with emotions and thought, one that can, as freely as possible, simply create. Nathan also complements his photography by gardening and studying and practicing the art of Ikebana. Nathan, after living in San Francisco for the first 44 years of his life, moved to Marin County in Northern California (United States) and currently makes his living teaching English Composition at City College of San Francisco.
Website: https://sliceofsilence.com/photography Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nlwirth/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nlwirth/
by the light
rat rock island
Art is the sacred glue t to each to this and to infinite for an unkown, u
that binds us to history, h other, planet, e possibilities unfolding future.
CHANG LEK paintings and collage
Lork Hang Quamsuk 12 32cm x 39cm 2020
Lotus #3 112cm x 58cm 2020
Collage #10 46cm x 74cm
Dongdip (Forest) 58cm x 86cm 2022
Dongdip (Forest) 58cm x 112cm 2021
Lotus 6 58cm x 112cm 2022
Lotus 9 43cm x 75cm 2021
Lotus 2 258cm x 118cm 2022
Collage #4 46cm x 74cm, 2021
Chang Lek’s Akha name is Atur Meyut, and his Thai name is Supot Najaree; he was born in the late 1980s in a small mountainous Akha village near Wawee, in Northern Thailand. Because of his family’s limited resources, he was placed in a Buddhist temple school at five and remained there unhe was sixteen. He returned to his village when his father died and then found work in Chiangmai to help support his family. He met the American artist Galen Garwood in 2003 and soon began assisting him in his studio. Subsequently, he took a deep interest in the creative impulse and began make his own paintings. Chang Lek’s work has been exhibited in Chiangmai, as well as in Seattle, and Port Townsend, Washington. In 2005, he vised Europe and her significant museums, especially Amsterdam and Paris, further absorbing that vital collective creative spirit imbued in his abstract imagery. Like most good abstractionists, he’s willing to take risks, even to fail, to achieve that unexpected, defining reflection in art. Chang Lek speaks Akha, Thai, and English, is married, has three beautiful children, and lives in Northern Thailand.
Quotes for the Quarter “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” Oscar Wilde
“Pardon my sanity in a world insane.” Emily Dickenson
“When wrath runs rampage in your heart, you must hold still that rambunctious tongue!” Sappho
“In my opinion, the worst evil of all evils is self-rightousness and exterminating it in ourselves is an everlasting weeding job…” Vincent van Gogh,
Thank you for spending a bit of time within these pages, with these remarkable artists participating in the first edition of Marrowstone Arts. I’m abundantly grateful. This issue is dedicated to the brave spirit of the Ukrainian people for their resolve and safety.